Born Aubrey Solomon Eban in Cape Town, in South Africa, Eban moved to England at an early age. He was educated at St Olave's Grammar School before becoming an honors-winning student at Cambridge University, and served with the British Army in World War II, rising to the rank of major. He served as a liaison officer for the Allies to the Jewish Yishuv of Palestine, and stayed on there after the war.
Having decided to remain in Israel, Eban changed his name to the more Hebrew-sounding Abba (however it was seldom used informally). He was Israel's first representative to the United Nations, where he was successful in attaining UN approval for the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab segments - Resolution 181. Eban spent a decade at the United Nations, and also served as his country's ambassador to the United States at the same time.
From 1966 to 1974, Eban served as Israel's foreign minister, publicly defending the country's seizures of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem while privately advocating negotiated return of the territories. He played an important part in the shaping of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967 (as well as resolution 338 in 1973). Eban was at times criticized for not voicing his opinions in Israel's internal debate.
In later years, he announced that he would not have been able to have so strongly supported Israeli statehood as he had in his earlier years.
In 1988, after three decades in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), he lost his seat over internal splits in the Israeli Labour Party. He devoted the rest of his life to writing and teaching, including serving as a visiting academic at Princeton University and Columbia University. He also narrated television documentaries including Heritage:Civilization and the Jews (PBS - 1984), for which he was host, Israel, A Nation Is Born (1992), and On the Brink of Peace (PBS - 1997).
In 2001, Eban received the Israel Prize, his country's highest honor.
His books include My Country; Abba Eban: An Autobiography and Heritage: Civilization and the Jews.
Eban was buried in Kfar Shmaryahu, north of Tel Aviv.